AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Donald Trump has earned fewer newspaper endorsements than any presidential nominee in modern times. That's according to The Hill newspaper. Hillary Clinton has been endorsed not only by more publications but by papers and magazines that don't normally support a Democrat or that don't historically weigh in at all.
That describes The Atlantic. They announced their endorsement today. Since that magazine was founded in 1857, they've backed just two other candidates - Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson. Scott Stossel is editor of The Atlantic magazine, and I asked him about their decision.
SCOTT STOSSEL: We don't make political endorsements lightly. And so you know, we've historically in those two instances you mentioned only endorsed a president where we felt that the stakes had been elevated to a true national emergency or an existential threat to the Republic. And potentially in this case, at any rate, the stakes are as high as they were in 1860 when we endorsed Lincoln over Breckinridge and 1964 when we endorsed Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater.
CORNISH: And in describing Donald Trump, you call him appallingly sexist, erratic, secretive, xenophobic. You say that he traffics in conspiracy theories. It's a pretty strong indictment against him.
But I want to compare that to your endorsement of Hillary Clinton where you basically say she's very prepared, the most prepared ever. She understands her role of the U.S. in the world. That doesn't - it's not ringing. It seems like that's kind of the basics for wanting to be president, right?
STOSSEL: Well, the contrast we were setting out to make here is that Hillary Clinton is eminently within the range of acceptable presidential fitness. She has had ample training having been first lady, senator of New York, secretary of state. When we discussed this among the senior editorial group, we recognize that she's a candidate with flaws, and yet her opponent is less qualified and, as we say, sort of ostentatiously unqualified, more so than any previous candidate in history.
So yes, I mean if our endorsement in an affirmative sense of Hillary is somewhat tepid, you're not reading that wrong. And yet our rejection of the idea that anyone should vote for Trump or the idea that Trump might actually become president of the United States - there's nothing halfhearted or qualified about that.
CORNISH: We hear people in this election cycle really criticize what they call the elite media - right? - the media elites. You hear this all the time. And does your magazine and all of these other papers and magazines that have kind of staked their claim here - do they add to those arguments that there is, like, kind of an elite media class and that they're out of touch with what a large segment of what the electorate is thinking?
STOSSEL: Sure. I think there's some percentage of the American people, in particular of Trump supporters, who view the media elite - and that would include both of us probably, but - with disdain and contempt; and we just want to blow the whole thing up.
We believe that, you know, if you can sort of disseminate into the world strong arguments for why one candidate - in particular, Donald Trump - is unfit for the presidency, it may at the margins affect some of these people.
You know, will it deepen some of these Trump supporters' contempt for the media elite and for the establishment, you know, writ large generally? Sure, I think that's probably likely. And yet we still think that getting on the right side of history in this instance is the right thing to do.
CORNISH: That's Scott Stossel, editor of The Atlantic magazine. Today the magazine announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. Scott, thanks so much.
STOSSEL: It's been my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
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